By Jaboner Jackson 8 a.m. | Tomorrow's NFL Draft will see the Indianapolis Colts draft Andrew Luck as the number overall pick for 2012. The quarterback out of Stanford is seen by scouts and our own Rock Mayock as a bona fide potential franchise player. In fact, number one overall picks are always seen by scouts as being such, even though in retrospection they oftentimes are anything but. Today, we Stack Rank a decade of number one overall draft picks to see exactly where they fit in the pantheon of franchise players.
1. Eli Manning, QB, 2004, New York Giants | The Giants obtained Manning from the San Diego Chargers after Manning's father stated that his son would never play for the Bolts. The Giants gave up the number five overall pick in the 2004 draft--which became Philip Rivers--and three additional picks, including a first-round pick in the following year's draft. Despite the steep price tag, the Giants obtained their franchise quarterback. Even though Manning took a few years to develop, he has become a bona fide leader. He makes every NFL throw, remains calm after bad plays, and has now brought two Super Bowl victories to the Giants.
2. Matthew Stafford, QB, 2009, Detroit Lions | Stafford had an injury riddled first two years in the league but remained healthy for 2011 and spearheaded a resurgent Lions team. Long considered the turkey in the Turkey Bowl, the Lions are once again competitive and relevant. Stafford has one of the livelier arms in the NFL and pinpoint accuracy. Although his success has been limited thus far, his future looks exceptionally bright.
3. Jake Long, OL, 2008, Miami Dolphins | Offensive tackles are safer picks than quarterbacks because they are less influential on the game. But Long has excelled as a premiere tackle in both pass protection and run blocking. He has made the Pro Bowl all four years of his career and been an All-Pro once. He makes it high on the Stack Rankings for his consistency.
4. Carson Palmer, 2003, Cincinnati Bengals | Palmer sat on the bench his rookie year to learn the NFL system and had a lackluster first half of his second year. But by the second half of his sophomore season, the game slowed down for him and he began to look every bit the prototypical quarterback he had been projected as being. No longer a Bengal and slowed somewhat by age, Palmer now brings his veteran presence and still elite arm to Oakland, which has lacked a franchise quarterback since Rich Gannon retired.
5. Cam Newton, QB, 2011, Carolina Panthers | We were wrong about Newton. There, we said it. Prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, the consensus around the FOOTBALLPHDS offices was that Newton was too much of a project to be taken number one overall. Thankfully, the Panthers did not listen to us. In his rookie season, Newton exceeded expectations. He played in the pocket with aplomb and resurrected the career of wide receiver Steve Smith. In a couple of years, Newton could very well be near the top of this list.
6. Sam Bradford, QB, 2010, St. Louis Rams | Bradford showed poise as a rookie but never built on his success in his second year. Injury, lack of talent on offense, and Josh McDaniels combined to put the brakes on his development. Nonetheless, Bradford remains a potentially elite quarterback. The Rams did the right choice in drafting him in 2010. And now the Rams will be expecting him to take a developmental step forward.
7. Mario Williams, DE, 2007, Houston Texans | The Texans wisely passed on running back Reggie Bush in the 2007 draft for a quarterback hunter who was drafted expressly to take down divisional foe Peyton Manning. Neither Williams nor Manning are still in the AFC South, but while playing for the Texans, Williams amassed 53 total sacks, including a career high 14 sacks in 2007.
8. Alex Smith, QB, 2005, San Francisco 49ers | Franchise quality starts to deteriorate in the Stack Rankings with Smith. Even though quarterback is the most important position in football, the 49ers picked position over talent. Most scouts recognized that Smith lacked elite arm strength, which in turn limited his capacity to make all the NFL throws. While supporters of Smith blame a revolving door of coordinators and coaches as the reason for his subpar NFL career, the truth is that his talent was never franchise player worthy.
9. David Carr, QB, 2002, Houston Texans | Carr never got off the turf in his rookie year, getting sacked an 76 times in 2002. His three other full seasons in Houston were barely better. He was sacked 49 times in 2004, 68 times in 2005, and 41 times in 2006. A desire to be out of the team building at 5 p.m. rather than poring over game tape coupled with too much time being spent under the pads of defensive linemen coupled to make Carr nothing more than a serviceable backup quarterback.
10. JaMarcus Russell, QB, 2007, Oakland Raiders | Russell was young, talented, and not ready for the NFL. Even though Al Davis had never drafted a quarterback as high as he eventually did with Russell, there was consensus amongst so-called draft experts that the physical talent of Russell was simply too much to pass up. Standing at 6'6" and with the strongest arm scouts had seen since John Elway, Russell had all the potential in the world. Davis went for what he hoped was his franchise quarterback and hired Lane Kiffin out of USC to develop him. Neither Russell nor Kiffin was ready for the Raiders and both were quickly out of the league. Rather than being a great franchise player, Russell has instead become one of the greatest NFL busts of all time. And not even our admiration for his bling can save him from the bottom of our Stack Rankings.
The 2012 NFL Draft kicks off Thursday night at 5 p.m. PST on NFL Network. Oh, it's on ESPN too but viewers will be subjected to Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, which we do not wish on anyone. The Draft continues on Friday night and Saturday morning. Feel free to reacquaint yourself with Rock Mayock's one and only Mock Draft here.
1st Round, Thursday Night, 5 p.m. PST, NFL Network and ESPN
2nd-3rd Rounds, Friday Night, 4 p.m. PST, NFL Network and ESPN
4th-7th Rounds, Saturday morning, 9 a.m. PST, NFL Network and ESPN